Audi’s tagline may be “Truth in Engineering,” but it should be “Defiance of Physics.” If one were to look at the Audi RS5 Cabriolet on paper, they would say “okay talk to me when it shoots off into a ditch.” The numbers don’t seem to add up. For a car this heavy, with a convertible top, and an engine that hangs precariously out ahead of the front wheels, there is no way that the RS5 should be neither drivable, fun nor livable. But the RS5 overcomes any potential shortcomings with one word: Quattro.
Angry on the outside, Ikea on the inside
The Audi lineup already maintains a svelte and athletic aura about it, so how do you visually differentiate the V8-powered RS5 from the 4-cylinder A5 and six-cylinder S5? You make it look a whole lot meaner. Audi’s new LED headlight design is fierce, but made fiercer by contrasting with the menacing aluminum-look grille. Combined with the massive lower front air intakes, and silver A-pillar and lower front spoiler, Audi has created a car that certainly stands out, but is more mature than to scream “hey everyone, look at me!”
To do so would have been to betray the subdued yet refined interior. Audi has long been known for its cabin designs and the RS5 does not diverge from that tradition. Audi was one of the first to tackle the problem in modern luxury cars, which was to make sense of all the features that a driver may want to access in a commute. The German automaker accomplished this with Multimedia Interface, or MMI.
While some automakers have moved their entire system to the digital screen, all of the RS5 controls are managed by a joystick, Audi continues to blend the digital and the tactile. Essential controls are all located in the center console, closer to the driver’s hand. Even the volume knob is on the right side of the center console, closer to where the driver’s hand would naturally fall.
The top opens and closes up to 31 mph and does the deed in just 17 seconds, but this welcomed refinement is only a garnish to the performance delivered by the RS5.
Jekyll and Hyde Under One Hood
The availability of a 4.2-liter V8 is nothing new among various Audi models. A V8 of such displacement is found in the A8, R8, and previously in the RS4, but the 4.2-liter mill in the RS5 is allegedly different. According to Audi, it is actually based on the 5.2-liter V10 from the R8 V10, but with two cylinders removed. The result is a high-reving unit that achieves 450 horsepower and 317 pound feet of torque.
Power is sent through a 7-speed S Tronic dual clutch transmission, operated via paddle shifters or the center stack tap-shifter. Drive modes are regular sport and manual. When in drive, pull back once on the shifter and it selects sport mode, and throttle response is quickened, shift points are raised, and even at idle, it sounds louder.
In acceleration, there is almost a brooding swell, until you punch the throttle, then your head is kicked back. Then you take a turn, and if you knew how far the V8 hung out over the front wheels, you would be amazed that you have not understeered your way into the woods. Almost half the engine hangs out in front of the front wheels, and in a world where moving the weight to the center of the car is key- this takes some understanding.
First is the Quattro all-wheel drive system, which is able to send power to the front wheels, and can disperse the power among the rear wheels individually. The second is a stability control system that squeezes the brakes on the inside of a turn, thus dragging the car into the turn. It is truly impressive that this car can handle like it does considering the RS5 has a 56/47 front/rear weight distribution.
It’s amazing what Quattro can do, but it does not have that linear feel that a properly sorted rear-wheel drive car would have, and without power being sent to the front wheels, you would end up in the woods. It is a very subtle thing, but if performance is your language, something about the overhanging V8 gets lost in translation.
For anyone that wants an Audi convertible that’s more potent than a TT, but not quite an R8, the RS5 is the perfrect blend of refinement and power. Like an MMA fighter wearing a fitted suit.
Photo Credit: George Kennedy for BoldRide